The Music Institute of Chicago was founded in 1931 (then known as the School of Musical Arts and Crafts) by David and Dorothy Dushkin. The Dushkins met in Paris as students of Nadia Boulanger. Each had taught for two years in the Chicago area before establishing their own school. David taught instrumental music at Francis Parker, the Latin School and in the Glencoe Public Schools, while Dorothy was a vocal teacher at the Latin School.

The Dushkins were passionate in their love of music, and wanted to make that love a part of the everyday life of as many children as they could reach. They were devoted, not to the training of the professional musician (although many who began their studies with the Dushkins went on to professional careers), but to developing musical ability and appreciation in the lifelong amateur.

David was a strong advocate for the creation of musical instruments. He believed that instrument making worked as a powerful stimulus to musical education, teaching the student pitch and tone and a love for the instrument itself. The Dushkin home on Willow and Rosewood in Winnetka served as a complete instrument workshop. Before their lessons began, students would spend an hour or two in the shop working under David’s tutelage.

Due to the growing popularity and enrollment in the school after two years, a new school was built at 555 Glendale and renamed the Winnetka Music School. It housed a concert hall on the main floor, a workshop and studios below and living quarters on the upper level. Noteworthy faculty included Grace Nash, violin, Genieve Lewis, cello and Louise Burge, flute. With the assistance of Harrison Collins, Principal at Sunset Ridge School in Winnetka, a special relationship was developed with the Winnetka community, and particularly the Winnetka Public Schools. Teachers from the Winnetka Music School were able to give lessons at Sunset Ridge during the school day. In addition, many musical performances were presented for the community, including one by the composer Igor Stravinsky and violinist Samuel Dushkin.

For 22 years the Dushkins remained very much a part of the community until they decided to move to Vermont and establish a summer music school which became known as Kinhaven. A small group of passionate citizens, led by faculty violinist Grace Nash, Richard D. Colburn and Lucy Montgomery envisioned a higher profile for the Winnetka Community School and purchased it from the Dushkins. Herbert Zipper was recruited to be the first president of the renamed Music Center of the North Shore. Zipper was an accomplished conductor and composer whose remakable journey included imprisonment in Dachau and Buchenwald. He later reorganized and conducted the Manila Symphony after the end of the World War II. Zipper had moved to New York to take up his work as the first executive director of the National Guild of Community Music Schools. When he arrived in Winnetka in 1953, Zipper was poised to establish the Music Center of the North Shore as a modern communty music school that combined professional performances with high quality education and training for the younger generation.

In 1956, Richard D. Colburn further propelled his vision by spearheading a group that garnered the necessary resources to build a new music facilty on land leased from North Shore Country Day School. This would become the exclusive home of the Music Center of the North Shore for many years to come. Several significant and innovative programs were adopted and nurtured in the ensuing decades, including Orff Schulwerk and the public school-touring Philharmonia ensemble known informally as the Zipper Orchestra. After fourteen years as the director of the Music Center, and having virtually re-invented the concept of a community music school, Herbert Zipper resigned to take the post of special assistant to the Dean of the School of the Performing Arts at the University of California. Programs developed by Zipper in California eventually evolved into the renowned Colburn Academy.

The legacy of the early leaders of the Music Institute of Chicago lives on. The Dushkin Award, established 26 years ago and named for the Music Institute’s founders, Dorothy and David Dushkin, honors individuals who exemplify the spirit of the award as exceptional artists, music educators, and role models for Music Institute of Chicago students. Notable Dushkin Award honorees include Sherrill Milnes, Sir Georg and Lady Solti, Plácido Domingo, William Warfield, Pierre Boulez, Isaac Stern, Mstislav Rostropovich, Renee Fleming, Midori, Leon Fleischer, Yo-Yo Ma, Maestro Riccardo Muti, Stephen Sondheim and Lang Lang.